LOS ANGELES—A San Fernando Valley-based task force is cracking down on sex trafficking in Los Angeles and has made more than 200 arrests of pimps and “johns” since its creation last year, Los Angeles City Council Woman Nury Martinez announced at a press conference on Monday, August 29.
LAPD Operations-Valley Bureau’s Human Trafficking Task Force is comprised of 20 community leaders aiming to detain “johns” while simultaneously helping prostitutes that are in many cases, victims of human trafficking.
“We often see little girls as young as 13, 14, 15 … walking these two corridors along Sepulveda and Lankershim Boulevard,” said Councilwoman Martinez, whose district includes Van Nuys, Sun Valley and Panorama City. “A lot of them have come from abused families. They often come from the foster care system and walk the streets of my district every single day, day in and day out.”
The task force connects victims to organizations like Journey Out—a Los-Angeles-based group that helps women escape prostitution, find alternatives to jail and gain education and job training.
Martinez pushed to establish the task force, which was created last October and recently earmarked $1 million for crackdown efforts. The task force has since issued 2,180 traffic citations, referred dozens of people to nonprofits and impounded nearly 80 vehicles belonging to “johns.”
The arrests came during a 10-month period in which the task force targeted traffickers and their customers along Sepulveda and Lankershim Boulevards—commonplace for prostitution.
Twenty-one arrests were for pimping and pandering and 177 people were arrested for seeking sex from women and girls who were being trafficked. In one operation, during a single six-hour shift, police issued 50 tickets to “johns” soliciting prostitutes.
“There has always been a prostitution problem in these areas, ever since I was a little girl,” said Martinez. “Working with LAPD, we’ve been able to redirect our focus on the predators who buy and sell our women and girls, and we’re proud to announce hundreds of arrests.”